D.C. official to lead Pr. George’s schools on a temporary basis

A veteran educator who has worked in Virginia and the District has been selected to run the Washington region’s third-largest school system on a temporary basis.

Alvin Crawley, deputy chief of programming in the Office of Special Education for D.C. Public Schools, will take the reins of the Prince George’s County school system Sept. 4.

(Gerald Martineau/THE WASHINGTON POST) - Prince George's County School Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. answers questions about the mix-up of students’ schedules in August, 2009.

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He will run the system for about 10 months while the county Board of Education continues its search for a permanent replacement for outgoing School Superintendent William R. Hite Jr.

“Dr. Crawley will help to provide stability for our staff, students and families as we search for our next superintendent,” board Chairman Verjeana M. Jacobs (District 5) said in a statement. “We are confident that his leadership, experience with business operations and policy development and commitment to narrowing the achievement gap will serve the Prince George’s County public schools community exceptionally well.”

Crawley, who has never led a school district, takes the helm of a 123,000-student system that is in upheaval.

In the past two months, Prince George’s has lost its superintendent, its deputy superintendent and several senior-level administrators.

Hite, who has worked in the county for six years, resigned in July after accepting the schools chief position in Philadelphia. His final day is Sept. 30.

Hite’s announcement came on the heels of deputy superintendent Bonita Coleman-Potter’s decision to take a top job in Mississippi. Ever since, the county Board of Education has been scrambling to address the leadership void.

Although the system has made academic strides in recent years, by scoring higher on state tests, it continues to lag behind its counterparts in the region.

Prince George’s is also experiencing a drop in enrollment and a growth in the number of students from low-income families. Meanwhile, it continues to struggle with rapid leadership turnover and to gain the trust of some parents, several of whom opt to home-school or send their children to private schools.

“I am excited to lead Prince George’s County public schools at this critical time,” Crawley, who has worked as assistant superintendent of student services in Arlington, said in a statement. “I will work with the Board of Education over the next several weeks to address immediate challenges and enhance successful programs and services.”

In addition to working in the District and Arlington, Crawley has held top positions in Chicago and Boston public schools, according to county school officials.

“Dr. Crawley has been a great part of the DCPS team and will certainly be a valuable asset for Prince George’s County,” Kaya Henderson, the District’s public schools chancellor, said through a spokeswoman.

Crawley, who has worked in education for 32 years, said he plans to primarily focus on five areas: student achievement, effective teaching, safe schools, community partnerships and efficient operations. He received his bachelor’s degree in communication disorders/education from Hampton University, a master’s degree in speech and language pa­thol­ogy from Northeastern University and a doctorate in education with a focus on instructional leadership and administration from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

The county’s Board of Education has met more than a half-dozen times in recent weeks in executive session to discuss Hite’s replacement and interview candidates.

During a public meeting with board members Thursday night to discuss the search, a couple of residents suggested that the board should consider someone already in the system to replace Hite. Others raised questions about the criteria the board used for the selection and attempts to gain input from the community.

“You need someone who is familiar with the obstacles that we have to get over,” said Emma Andrews, a community advocate.

State Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George’s), a former teacher and principal, specifically recommended that the board consider A. Duane Arbogast, who was recently promoted acting deputy superintendent of academics.

Arbogast was one of several candidates considered for the position.

Jacobs told the crowd that the board wanted someone who could “come in and provide the eye that’s necessary to give us a true assessment” and make recommendations for improvements.

Asked by a resident whether the interim superintendent would make changes, only to have more changes come when a permanent replacement is named, Jacobs said the board had been asking candidates how they can enhance what the system is already doing. “We don’t expect any overhauls,” she said.

 
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